X-Men (2nd series) #197

Issue Date: 
May 2007
Story Title: 
Condition Critical, part 1

Mike Carey (Writer), Chris Bachalo (Penciler), Tim Townsend (Inker), Studio F’s Antonio Fabella (Colorist), Virtual Calligraphy’s Cory Petit (Letterer), Sean Ryan (Assistant Editor), Andy Schmidt (Editor), Joe Quesada (Editor in Chief), Dan Buckley (Publisher)

Brief Description: 

The X-men arrive at Cable’s island Providence, where a medical team begin working to save Rogue’s life. Mystique watches her daughter, while Iceman questions her motives. Cable meets with his good friend Irene Merryweather, while Cannonball and Karima watch over Sabretooth, who informs them that he has detected something wrong with Lady Mastermind. Karima also reveals that she wants Sabretooth to be killed, for in Calcutta he murdered several people, and therefore if he was gone, the world would be rid of a plague. Lady Mastermind meanwhile convinces a psychiatrist to do hypnotherapy on her, and once inside her own mind, she goes in search of the parasite that has latched onto her, eventually finding it and expelling it from her body, which causes major atmospheric changes, and a storm sweeps over Providence. In her weakened state though, the parasite latches back onto Lady Mastermind, who is confronted by her teammates. The parasite leaves her body, instead finding Mystique’s more interesting. Cable begins talking to the being, who introduces itself as Mummudrai, and shows both he and Iceman some of its past. Iceman recalls that a Mummudrai is what the Shi’ar called Cassandra Nova, and the Mummudrai pleads to be kept safe, as the Hecatomb is coming to eat the world.

Full Summary: 

The Pacific Ocean, more specifically, the island Haven of Providence, where the massive ship the Conquistador, home of one squad of X-Men lands. Nathan “Cable” Summers uses his fake telekinesis to fly out of the ship while Bobby “Iceman” Drake creates an ice-sled to slide down on, which Regan “Lady Mastermind” Wyngarde does also, and Raven “Mystique” Darkholme tends to her daughter Rogue who is being carried by some of Providence’s medical officers on an a life-support unit.

Cable tells the medical staff to stabilize Rogue’s condition and to do what they can for her. The doctor replies ‘Of course’ before asking what is exactly wrong with Rogue. Cable replies that it is called Strain 88 and informs the doctor that he is uploading the files to his database now. Cable turns to his teammates and tells them that there are ground rules here, as the last time the X-Men came to Providence it was to invade, so he suggests they be as non-threatening as they can, otherwise they will run into trouble.

‘What are you, the chief of police, or something?’ Regan asks the powerful Cable, who glares down at the sultry new X-Woman and replies ‘And the judge. And the jury. And the executioner!’ Cable declares that he has got things to do while they are here, just to keep the place ticking and walking away from his allies he informs them that he will be back in a couple of hours, but if he is needed in the meantime, they are to page him from one of the data-booths, and he will get the message.

‘Yeah, don’t call us’ Regan mumbles, before asking her teammates what exactly is this place, ‘Some kind of Banana Republic?’ Iceman replies that if it is, then Cable is the top banana, before informing Regan that Cable built Providence back when he had his telekinesis, and it is Cable’s model for a perfect democracy. Raven mutters that she doesn’t have time for this, and informs the others that she is going to be with her daughter. Iceman, Rogue’s long-time friend, replies that he will go too.

As they leave Lady Mastermind, she calls out after them ‘give her some flowers from me, yeah? Nothing showy. Poison ivy should send the right message…’. With her teammates gone, Regan mumbles ‘Finally’ then uses her illusion powers to disguise herself, and now dressed in a white lab coat she rushes over to some men in suits and informs them that she is a shrink, but is new here. ‘Where do they keep the nut jobs?’ she asks.

Meanwhile, aboard the Conquistador, Victor “Sabretooth” Creed is being held in a glass tank, and turning to Karima Shapandar, he calls her “cutie-pie” and asks her how long she thinks she can keep him here. The Omega Sentinel replies that the question is rather meaningless, for when she engages the temporal filed envelope, time will slow down for Sabretooth by a factor of a thousand, effectively placing him in suspended animation until they decide what to do with him.

Creed tells Karima that if she plays nice with him, maybe he could tell her something about the little blonde, “Lady Whatsis”, something which he thinks they probably need to know. ‘Like what?’ Sam “Cannonball” Guthrie asks. Creed turns away from the X-Men, ‘Nah, Hell with it. I ain’t gonna parley with you losers’ he declares, adding that sooner or later his healing factor is going to deal with the nannites that they shot him full of, and then he will take great pleasure in - suddenly Creed goes silent, and Sam tells Karima ‘Nice job’, adding that if they get tired of super-heroing, they can make a fortune selling this device to working moms.

Karima reminds Sam that it is only a stopgap, to which Sam replies that a stopgap is all they need. Karima replies that actually, what they need is a way of dealing with Creed permanently. Sam tells Karima that she hears what she is saying, but doesn’t think it is our call to make. ‘Thank God’ he adds. Karima asks if Cable is the ultimate civil authority in this place, to which Sam replies ‘As far as he wants to be, yeah’, but that mostly Cable lets the folks who live here run it for themselves. Karima points out that Cable could make an executive decision, and nobody else’s laws apply.

Karima reminds Sam that Sabretooth added seven more to his body count in Calcutta, her home town, so from a pragmatic point of view, executing him would be like discovering a vaccine for a deadly disease. She informs Cannonball that the time-field envelope is unstable, and that he needs to turn the dial all the way so it contracts to a point, and so does whatever is inside. Karima adds that she should have probably engaged the safeties, but supposes that she will do it in the morning, and walks off.

Meanwhile, in a medical lab, Mystique and Iceman stand outside the room where Rogue is being tended to, and Raven remarks that all they can do now is wait. Bobby tells Raven that if it bothers her, they can go back up to the ship, but Raven replies that she has to be here, just in case anything happens. Bobby reminds Mystique that she has tried to kill Rogue herself when Rogue stood in her way in the past, so he doesn’t understand why she is so concerned about her now.

‘You’re very young, Robert’ You see things in very simple terms’ Mystique replies, to which Bobby remarks ‘Well, we’re talking about murder. How complicated is that?’ Raven declares that she is not going to try and justify herself to him, before remarking that she wonders why Bobby is working so hard to keep her at arms length. Iceman replies that the reason is obvious, ‘You’re one of the most ruthless people I’ve ever met. Only an idiot would turn his back on you!’ Raven replies ‘That’s true, I suppose’ before remarking that there is a time when she wasn’t herself, as the woman she loved most in all the world had died. Raven tells Bobby that he has known grief and loss, so can understand what that did to her.

‘You’re saying that Destiny’s death sent you -?’ Bobby exclaims, to which Raven replies ‘No’ and declares that it makes no difference, why should it? Raven turns and looks at Bobby for the first time since this conversation began. ‘You’re right, Robert, I am dangerous. I wouldn’t want to say or do anything that would put you off your guard’. However, Raven declares that for all the harm she has done to Rogue, she does lover her daughter very much. Raven asks if that is a paradox, and remarks that if it is, then Bobby need only look at himself. She places a hand on Bobby’s chest, ‘You’re so very cold to touch. But does that make any difference to the fire that burns in here?’ she asks.

Meanwhile, Regan has dropped her psychiatrist disguise and now stands before pair of doctors, asking them if they do hypnotherapy, ‘Cause I need a session in the worst way!’ she exclaims. The male doctor replies that it is certainly possible, but only within a proper therapeutic framework, as things are pretty free and easy here on Providence. However, the doctor informs Regan that, even here, he requires a referral and an initial consultation before he prescribes the treatment, and apologizes. ‘Yeah? Well, that’s a real bummer’ Regan exclaims, before asking the doctor if there is any chance she could persuade him to cut through some of the red tape for her.

Lady Mastermind proceeds to use her powers on the doctors, who now see armed men all dressed in black surrounding them. The male doctor hides under his desk, ‘Please don’t kill me! I’ll do it! I’ll do it!’ he screams’. The men disappear and Regan mutters ‘Cool, you’re a credit to your profession’, before asking them if there is somewhere they can go that is private. ‘You know how it is, If I start yakking about how my Dad tried to hit on me, I don’t want the whole damn world to hear it!’

The male doctor leads Regan into a private room with a chair and other equipment as he asks Regan what exactly she is hoping to get from this consultation. ‘Oh, you know. Closure. Enhanced self-esteem - and maybe a sneak peek at some crummy little parasite that’s hiding inside my brain’. As Regan takes off her jacket, the doctor asks her if she is an X-Man, a super hero. ‘Well, I don’t like to brag, but yeah. I saved the world a few times’ Regan boasts, before telling the doctor to “listen up” and warning him that this isn’t going to be a walk in the park.

Regan sits in the chair and looks at herself in a small mirror as she informs the doctor that when it comes to hypnosis, she has a “thing” going on, so it is almost impossible to put her under. She explains that if her powers turn on herself, then she can almost do it, but that she needs him to push her the rest of the way. ‘Secondly’, she continues, ‘Hang onto your hat because I’m probably going to project’. Regan explains that means once she is tranced, he will see what she does, adding that the rest they will figure out as it happens, instructing the doctor whom she calls Clyde to “go to town” on her. ‘I’m all yours!’ she exclaims. A purple pendant is placed in front of Regan and the doctor tells her to watch it, asking her if she sees how the light plays on it as it turns. ‘The pretty patterns…just watch the patterns…’.

‘My God!’ exclaims the doctor as he and Regan now “stand” in open space, walking on thousands of the purple crystal-like pendants. ‘Not bad!’ Regan exclaims. ‘Not bad at all, Clyde!’ She begins walking about, examining her “landscape” as she searches for, what she calls a ‘Stinking little hitchhiker!’. She is certain it is in here somewhere, ‘Let the dog see the rabbit!’ she exclaims. The doctor begins following Regan around, asking her not to leave him here. ‘There is no here’ Regan replies, telling the doctor to just do his thing - duck and cover - and it will all be cool.

Suddenly though, a massive brick wall appears before them. ‘A wall? You built yourself a wall to hide behind? In my brain?’ Regan exclaims. ‘So, you gonna let me in, little pig?’ Regan jokes, playing on the children’s story “The Three Little Pigs”. Knocking on the wall though, she receives no answer, so she declares that she is going to have to huff and puff, and does so, not literally of course, but with a sweeping movement from her hand, she creates a gap in the brick wall.

‘Oh, for crying out loud!’ Lady Mastermind mutters as she looks into the space behind the wall. ‘Just how stupid do you think I am?’ she asks as she stares back at a version of herself. ‘Get the Hell out of me!’ Regan screams, creating an illusion of herself to appear monstrous, while back in reality, she convulses in her seat, and the parasite is thrust from her body, it hovers around her, a creepy voice muttering You flesh you my anchor nest burrow open open open let me back.

Lady Mastermind’s actions appear to have some effect in space itself, as a purple cloud draws towards Earth, and lightning strikes down around Providence. In a large meeting room, Cable stares out the window, and his good friend Irene Merryweather asks him what is on his mind. ‘Something obviously more important than the savior business, obviously’ Irene remarks. Cable apologizes and asks if his attention was wandering. Irene jokes that it went off for a few short walks, before remarking that she is not worried, because the budget forecasts in front of her are all fine, before admitting that she is curious, seeing him toting that canon around again.

Cable replies that he supposes running with the X-Men again has reminded him of a period in his past, a period he thought he had put behind him. ‘Since most of your past is in the future, it’s technically in front of you, too. It’s got you surrounded’ Irene points out. ‘Thank you for that observation’ Nathan replies, to which Irene asks him if he is actually enjoying all this soldier-boy “stuff”. Cable replies that there is a satisfaction in dealing with powerful enemies, dealing with direct and immediate threats, before admitting that, potentially, it could distract a man from longer-term goals. Cable begins to say something else, when a computer signals an alert alarm. Irene asks what it is, Nathan just sarcastically mumbles ‘Wonderful…’.

Back in the therapy room, Regan is thrown through a wall. ‘Don’t just stand there. Help me!’ she screams at the people standing around her. Suddenly, she screams again as the parasite manages to make its way back into her body. Regan collapses while some doctors rush to her, telling her that she is going to have to come with them. In a strange voice, Regan replies that she is fine, and crawling away, warns them to let her go.

One of the doctors remarks that, all the same, they should still get someone to look at her wounds. Regan proceeds to use her powers on the innocents. In the strange voice she exclaims ‘All of you! You see your limbs rotting! You see insects eating your flesh!’ With the residents of Providence dealt with, Regan begins making her exit from the large building, people all around her going insane, until she reaches the doors, where as the parasite literally drools from her mouth, Iceman and Mystique are waiting for her.

‘Wyngarde, whatever the Hell you’re up to - stand down, or we’ll take you down!’ Bobby exclaims. Regan goes wide-eyed as the parasite leaps from her body at the same time Iceman blasts her with a chunk of ice, knocking her to the ground. Bobby is knocked to the ground also as the parasite leaps past him and latches onto Mystique, forcing her to shift her hand into that of a large spiked metal club, and proceeds to force her to use it on Bobby, smacking him hard. ‘Yes. This one. Better’ the parasite exclaims, when suddenly Raven falls to the ground, blasted by an energy.

Cable stands before her wielding a large weapon. ‘Neat trick, but I’m hoping you have to look at me to make it work!’ Nathan exclaims while Bobby recomposes himself and stands next to his teammate. Cable declares that his force field is not going to let whatever this thing is work on him, and asks if it has a name. There is a reply in a strange language, before the creature invading Mystique exclaims ‘I am Ev Teel Urizen. I am the proscribed, the anathema, the womb-weld. I am Mummudrai!’

Cable frowns, before unleashing a massive barrage of blasts at Mystique, knocking her to the ground. ‘Cable! My God! What did you do?’ Iceman exclaims, horrified. Nathan replies that it was just concussive blasts and points out that if there was any point in killing her, he would have done it by now, before asking what Bobby if he knows what Mummudrai are. Bobby replies that he doesn’t, before exclaiming that he remembers that is what the Shi’ar called Cassandra Nova. ‘Then you know why this creature cannot leave Providence’ Cable exclaims, before explaining that he is turning his rifle into an electromagnetic pulse grenade.

Cable remarks that Mummudrai are basically energy lattices, so a focused electromagnetic pulse might scramble this thing long enough for them to get the White Queen here, but as Cable’s weapon is dismantled before their eyes, Bobby points out that they will never know. ‘Damn! Okay, plan B’ Cable exclaims, to which the Mummudrai declares ‘Wait. Not fight. Not come for this!’. Cable asks it what it has come here for, to which the Mummudrai exclaims ‘Not tell. Show watch listen!’ and with that, begins projecting images into Cable and Iceman’s minds. Cable and Iceman appear to be in a bit of pain as the Mummudrai exclaims Understand’ and they see various images in their minds, including astronauts in space, some sort of satellite, something falling from the stars and landing on Earth, as well as the old man, Paul Brunner who showed up on the X-Men’s doorstep, and the comatose Lady Mastermind.

Bobby and Nathan are released from the projection, and Bobby exclaims ‘Next time, just do a charade or something!’ The Mummudrai replies that they should see now, see the pain, know the pain , the journey and the seeking. Blood trickling from his nose, Cable replies that raw-sense data does not tell them anything, before remarking that the Mummudrai came from the edge of Shi’ar space, so it has taken centuries to get here - but asks why here, and what it is looking for.

‘The next. Strong thoughts strong thinkers I smelled across all the dark. Smelled like me’ the Mummudrai replies as it hovers in Mystique. Cable realizes the Mummudrai means telepaths and that it followed a psychic trail to the X-Men, across interstellar distances, and asks why it did that. As the cloud form a strange mouth-like image, the lightning thrashes about in the sky, darting all over Providence, and the Mummudrai replies ‘Help. The strong thinkers must help me please. Must keep me safe for the hecatomb comes…to eat the world!’

Characters Involved: 

Cable, Cannonball, Iceman, Karima, Lady Mastermind, Mystique, Rogue, Sabretooth (all X-Men)

Irene Merryweather

Clyde and other staff at Haven of Providence


In the Mummudrai’s projection.
Lady Mastermind

Paul Brunner

In Illusion:
Armed men

Story Notes: 

Rogue was infected with Strain 88 in X-Men (2nd series) #196.

The woman that Mystique loved most in all the world is of course the late Irene Adler a.k.a. Destiny, who was murdered by Legion in Uncanny X-Men #255.

Sabretooth first noticed something wrong with Lady Mastermind in X-Men (2nd series) #196.

In the cover corner box, this issue is titled “Red Data” part 1.

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